Minneapolis, the United States – The jury in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has reached a verdict, the court said on Tuesday afternoon, as tensions are running high across the United States.
The verdict on whether Chauvin is guilty of the murder of George Floyd is expected to be announced shortly in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the trial was heard.
An air of excitement and dread hung over downtown Minneapolis after authorities announced that the jury had reached a decision.
A group of activists waiting for the verdict in downtown Minneapolis chanted, “What do we want? Justice. If we don’t get it? Shut it down!”
Chauvin is charged with second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death on May 25 last year, which spurred mass protests around the world.
Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Minneapolis, said the speed with which the jury reached its decision – about a day after their deliberations began on Monday, following closing arguments – sends a message.
“They’re trying to tell us that this was a relatively easy decision, arrived at speedily, with very little rancor,” Hendren said, noting that it appears the jury asked no questions of the judge or attorneys during their deliberations. “In general, when a jury comes down with a verdict this quick, it often favours the prosecution.”
Jury deliberation entered its second day Tuesday morning, after the prosecution and defence gave their closing arguments yesterday.
The biggest surprise came from the nearly three-hour closing from Chauvin’s lawyer Eric Nelson, which was interrupted by Judge Peter Cahill’s call for a lunch break and looks of boredom from the jury, according to court pool reports.
Monday was calm in Minneapolis following days of tumult. A demonstration began at 5pm local time (22:00 GMT) near the Hennepin County Justice Center, which serves as the courthouse, shortly after the jury began deliberations.
The crowd was smaller than in recent nights, with about 2,000 attendees at its peak, but still fervent. The trial was on the minds of protesters.
“Nelson was stalling. He knows he has no case,” Steve Graff, one of the demonstrators, told Al Jazeera in reference to the defence’s lengthy closing argument.
“Anyone who watched the trial sees Chauvin is guilty,” the 28-year-old said through a bandana covering his face.
The prosecution called 38 witnesses and played video of Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 dozens of times over during its 11-day presentation.
Witnesses – including current MPD officers – bolstered the prosecution’s narrative that Floyd died of asphyxiation because of Chauvin, a white man, holding his knee on the Black man’s neck for over nine minutes.
Nelson presented for two days, calling witnesses who testified that Chauvin acted appropriately and arguing that a combination of Floyd’s pre-existing health conditions, drugs, and exhaust from a nearby police car were contributing factors to Floyd’s cause of death.
Demonstrators carried signs calling for justice and Chauvin’s arrest amid chants of “F*** the police” and “National Guard go home”.
Roughly 3,000 National Guard troops are in Minneapolis, bracing for a verdict. They take positions throughout the city around nightfall and stay through the early morning.
Residents told Al Jazeera they are not sure where the troops will be stationed when night begins, or for how long.
The soldiers and police have been accused of using excessive force on protesters and media during raucous protests in Minneapolis and nearby Brooklyn Center, where Daunte Wright was shot and killed by former police officer Kim Potter on April 11.
Protest in downtown Minneapolis proceeding along 7th Street pic.twitter.com/rvSz3GWQoo
— Tony Webster (@webster) April 19, 2021
Two troops were injured after a man opened fire on them and a police officer in the early hours of Sunday. Authorities have arrested Andrew Thomas, 28, in the case.
“I don’t like cops, but I almost feel bad for them”, Minneapolis resident Jordan Rabkin, 42, told Al Jazeera as he biked past the protest at the courthouse.
While they have the power, “they feel under attack. It puts them in a bad state of mind”, Rabkin said.
The jury’s decision will have broad implications across the US, which is bracing for protests.
Demonstrators chanted they would “shut it down” if “George doesn’t get justice”.